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MessagePosté le: 28/10/2016 07:23:42    Sujet du message: ng has remained close Répondre en citant

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Piri Weepus impressive return from injury has made scrumhalf the main area of selection contention in a largely settled All Blacks team at the Rugby World Cup. Weepu broke his leg playing for Wellington in New Zealands National Provincial Championship in late 2010 and missed most of the early part of this season during a long and troubled recovery. His selection to start in the All Blacks team that beat France 37-17 on Saturday, its toughest pool match, suggests Weepu, with suprising speed, has usurped Jimmy Cowan and Andy Ellis as New Zealands No. 1 scrumhalf. But the selection issue around the No. 9 jersey is more complicated than it may appear. For a start, all the three players vying for the role have different qualities and styles. Cowan, who was the incumbent No. 9 before the World Cup began, is a strong and bruising player who excels in the clinches around breakdowns. Ellis may have a slightly better passing game than both other contenders but Weepus kicking and running games have developed and may give him the edge in a vexed selection contest. Weepu also has the ability to cover flyhalf and that adds a new layer of complexity to the scrumhalf contest as New Zealand approaches the World Cups knockout rounds. Colin Slade, who was selected as Daniel Carters understudy at flyhalf in New Zealands 30-man World Cup squad, hasnt yet produced a completely confident performance in that role. When the All Blacks come to the knockout rounds of a tournament they havent won for 24 years, its not entirely certain they will opt for Slade on the bench, instead may favour Weepu and his experience of more than 50 tests. Weepus versatility until recently had seen him consigned to the bench and he might return to that role if left later in the tournament to cover both halfback positions. For that reason, he savored the time he spent on the field on Saturday, an impressive 45 minutes before he was replaced. "I thought I could have stayed on a bit longer but I was pretty happy with the game time that I got," Weepu said Monday. "The more game time you get, you gain fitness so Ill just be chipping away at that all week and getting fitter week by week." Coming back from injury "has been tough, but from where I was last year to where I am now is a huge improvement," he added. "I didnt think I was going to be back in the team so all the hard work Ive been doing in the background has been helping me out." Weepu wouldnt be drawn into the question of which of three scrumhalves is now the All Blacks coaches preferred choice. He acknowledged the contest for the position but said the three contenders were supportive of each other and placed the best interests of the team ahead of personal rivalry. "Obviously the coaches want to have a look at all three of us and at this stage I just take it as it comes really," he said. "If Im in the 22 or the 15 or even if Im not involved ... Im helping out my two teammates that are involved, making sure they know what their job is leading into the game. "I think all three of us have been playing pretty well and hopefully well make the coaches (selection) job a lot harder than what it was before." Weepu said he was relatively happy with his recent form. "I finished the Tri-Nations pretty well last year and wanted to try to get that same sort of form that I had back then," he said. "Just every opportunity I get, I try to improve myself. After each game you want to make sure you step it up the following week and play a lot better than what you did the week before. "I just want to get to my best and hopefully the coaches will give me that opportunity." 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Friends and former teammates are happy hes made it back to the NFLs biggest stage, and the general public is excited to see if No. 18 can win a second Super Bowl ring this weekend, too. Many in this town just wished this incredible season had come in Colts blue rather than Broncos orange. "I think as fans of Peyton, people hoped he would stay with the same team and finish it out," said Jeff Saturday, Mannings longtime centre. "But that wasnt possible. Peyton wanted to still play. The Colts released him and that happens in our business. As a player, you have to move on to the next team and hes done what hes supposed to do." Hes continued to win at a record-breaking rate. Many in Indy never doubted Manning would continue to play at this high level — if he could get healthy. But after missing the entire 2011 season to recover from a damaged nerve in his neck and facing a salary cap dilemma, Colts owner Jim Irsay made the toughest decision of his career — cutting ties with Manning and using the No. 1 draft pick to begin anew. Immediate reactions in Indy were mixed when Irsay tearfully tried to explain he wanted Manning to have another shot at the Super Bowl before his career ended, while the Colts were attempting to remain a Super Bowl contender for the next decade with a completely new cast. So far, so good. Since drafting Andrew Luck, the Colts have posted back-to-back 11-win seasons and reached the playoffs twice. Manning, meanwhile, has posted two straight 13-win seasons, just completed perhaps the greatest regular season by any quarterback in league history and will make his third Super Bowl start Sunday in New York. Indy fans arent surprised by Mannings success, especially after watching him turn this basketball bastion into a football-friendly town. "I think everyone is pulling for him," said Joe Gray, a 59-year-old Colts season ticket holder who was impresssed by the standing ovation Manning got when he returned to Lucas Oil Stadium in October.dddddddddddd "Im not saying I dont like Luck, I just wish Peyton was still here." Grey finds himself in a crowded group. Even longtime friends, such as Saturday and former linebacker Gary Brackett, acknowledge it was tough to see Manning leave, though theyre happy to see him playing well. Some Indy football fans say they cheer for Manning first and the Colts second, which may explain why so many orange No. 18 jerseys — or some variation of them — have been seen around town the last two years. Manning has remained close to the community, too, returning each of the last two springs to host fundraisers for the childrens hospital that bears his name. On Sunday, the Peyton Manning Childrens Hospital at St.Vincent is even planning a Super Bowl viewing party for patients and their families. "We are fortunate to partner with a selfless individual who has given his time and resources off the field for the betterment of children and our overall community," said Vince Caponi, executive chairman of the hospitals board. "Peyton has the highest respect for our health ministry, and values his time spent with its pediatric patients." But to those who know Manning best, this goes far deeper than rooting for an ex-teammate. "My career is over, so now I can sit back and cheer for the guys I respect and hes definitely on top of that list," said Brackett, who served as Indys defensive captain while Manning was the offensive captain. Saturday concurs. "Hes a friend, so Im always pulling for him that way. But to see a guy coming back from all the neck surgeries hes had, at 37, going to another team, going to a Super Bowl, its fun to watch," Saturday said. "Peyton Manning was everything youd want our of a franchise quarterback while he was in Indy. He won the way you wanted to win. 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